Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Memories of 'Project Carrot'

“This gajar ka halwa tastes heavenly Maa…..yummmm!” I spoke through a mouth full of Mom’s home cooked delicacy, finishing off my plate in a few seconds, and pushed it across the table towards her.
“What now?” Mom asked.
“Maa ….. Don’t pretend like you do not know why I’m pushing my plate towards you. Come on, another helping please!”
“But our son hates carrots, doesn’t he?” Mom looked mischievously at Dad who nodded in affirmation.
“Maa, it’s been more than a decade now, how many times do you need to remind me of that?”
Dad put a dollop of gajar halwa in his mouth and smirked, “We never tire of that story, son! If not for my ingenious Project Carrot, you wouldn’t have known what gajar halwa is! So, we’d continue to play it in loop, from time to time! Consider it payback from us …….!” He let out a guffaw, and Mom laughed too.
        Much as I tried, I could never forget that for the first fourteen years of my life, I had led a rebellion against eating vegetables. Any efforts by my parents to force feed me veggies was countered, using violent tantrums. So, although they despised it, the most frequently adopted measure opted for by them was ceasefire, by omitting vegetables. I had been happy with the arrangement.
But a hilarious turn of events changed all that.

Oct 2002, Ooty:            
      We had been to Ooty for the holidays, and were having a lovely time. Shah Rukh Khan’s “Chhaiya Chhaiya” had been a rage for the past few years, and I was eagerly looking forward to having a ride on that toy train, the Nilgiri Mountain Railways, on which SRK had performed his famous dance steps. We drove around Ooty, admiring its picturesque landscape, with the train ride scheduled for the late afternoon. All over the town, we had seen vendors selling bright orange carrots. But I had no idea as to, what was coming!
 At the spot before the train ride, Dad took me aside and told me, he was sorry they had to keep me off the ride.
I was shocked! “WHY?” I demanded.
“That’s because we have decided not to allow anybody on the train that does not eat vegetables. Start eating carrots now and you’re getting on with us!” Dad’s demeanour was cool.
“NO WAY!” I bellowed.
“Then I’m sorry, there’s no way we are buying you a ticket for the ride!”
We had my uncle and aunt with us on the tour. “I’ll ask them” I pointed towards them, “I don’t need you to buy me a ticket!”
“Try them!” Dad had a twinkle in his eyes. I feared that this was all set up.
“This is cheating! You’re teaming up against me …..You’re torturing me!” I was about to fly into a rage.
“Now, Titas, Shut up and don’t be silly ………….. Here’s the deal--- you eat a carrot, you go on the train. However, to give you moral support, I’ll eat one with you too.”
I felt betrayed by all, but here was something for which I had waited for long, that now hung in balance. I weighed my options. I couldn’t possibly surrender this coveted train ride!
“Don’t worry son, it’s not poison we’re giving you. I’m quite sure, once you take the first bite, you’d love it. These carrots look pretty too…….plucked fresh off the fields here!” Dad went on.
“OK!” I relented, glaring back, “but I’ll remember your bluff forever!”
Dad walked over to a vendor, bought a few carrots from him and held them out to me.
“This better be good …….,”I told myself, ears burning from embarrassment.
My mom, aunt, uncle were trying hard to suppress their laughter. Other members of our bus had now joined in to have a look at the proceedings. Mom even took out the camera to capture the moment. “Come on Titas, this is royal treatment being meted out to someone, just for eating his first veggie!”
I felt like a fool, shut my eyes, and took a bite, trying to chew off the orange stick without even tasting it. I had prepared myself for some vile taste, and was ready to puke. On the contrary, the carrot didn’t seem inedible …………it actually tasted good.
I proceeded to take further bites till I had finished off the whole carrot. Now it was my parents’ turn to glare back.
“Well, somebody here has eaten a whole carrot at the blink of an eye! How’s that for a start?”
Suddenly, I had no answer but to admire my shoelaces! Our whole entourage had started giggling. I too smiled foolishly.
On the Nilgiri toy train too, I rode firmly tongue-in-cheek!

“So, on that note Titas , considering the troubles we had to undertake for making you eat a carrot, we refuse to sanction your extra helping of gajar halwa!” Dad declared.

“….and for making a circus clown out of me at Ooty, I demand an extra helping!” I winked, as I took the spoon from Mom and helped myself to a generous amount!